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On the Frontline in Aleppo; Rebels Stronghold In Eastern Aleppo Nears Collapse; Aleppo Father's Message To World: "Save Our Souls"; Teacher Describes Grave Danger For Civilians In Aleppo; 2016 Deadliest Year Ever For Migrant Sea Crossing; Vanessa Redgrave Speaks Out Over Plight of Refugee. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 06, 2016 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in the "Situation Room". For our

international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next. For our viewers in North America "NEWSROOM" with Anna Cabrera starts right now.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Aleppo on the verge of falling to the Assad Regime as it continues its punishing Russia back defensive.

The latest from the frontlines with our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen. And behind the lines, the English teacher trying to survive

the bombardment.


MOHAMMED EDEL, RESIDENT OF ALEPPO: I would like to send a message to the whole world is to save our poor souls and to help us.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead, the surge of refugees has up-ended politics across the west. Now Oscar-winning actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave makes an

impassioned plea for their safety with her new film "Sea Sorrow".

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The war in Syria appears to be on the brink. The Syrian regime and its Russian allies are on the verge of recapturing all of Aleppo after taking

back several more neighborhoods in the rebel-held east today.

And diplomacy is failing as ever. The United States and Russia traded accusations about who was responsible for prolonging the war.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: My hope is this week in our continued conversations with the Russians, we get them to understand the imperative

of getting to that table, having the negotiation and of not inflaming passions more with the total destruction of Aleppo.


AMANPOUR: Now this comes a day after Russia joins with China, the U.N. Security council to veto a humanitarian pause.


VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): As we know, these kinds of pauses have been used by fighters to reinforce the

ammunition and strengthen their positions. And this will only worsen the suffering of civilians.

MICHELE SISON, DEPUTY U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): They have vetoed the lives of innocent Syrians. This action is a death

sentence for innocent men, women and children.


AMANPOUR: The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, bitterly denounced the west's failure to help those in Aleppo.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It is a disgrace that we have been unable to establish a humanitarian corridor, but we must

continue to fight for one.


AMANPOUR: Bow Fred Pleitgen has been following the government defensive as it moves further and further into rebel-held territory and he's just filed

this report for us.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Aleppo 24/7, shelling and air strikes raining down mostly on rebel-held areas.

Near the frontline, Palestinian pro-regime fighters show us what they claim was a former Jabhat al-Nusra field hospital they found when they advanced

into this area.

"Every injured rebel would be taken here," he says. "You see the medicine and blankets." This is one of their instruments they used."

Syrian pro-government forces have brought heavy weapons to the frontline as they continue to push the opposition back. They showed us these homemade

mortars and accused rebels of lacing them with chemicals the army says it discovered in this room close by.

This alleged weapons facility is inside what used to be an elementary school in this former rebel-held district. And the Syrian army says it

found this place when it was sweeping the area as rebels were retreating.

The battles show no sign of letting up as Syrian forces continue to pound rebel-held districts killing hundreds in the past days and leaving

thousands of civilians trapped and at risk. In an interview with CNN, a Syrian general says government forces will not stop unless opposition

fighters withdraw.

FAWAZ MUSTAFA, BRG. GEN., SYRIAN ARMY: If he insisted to go on fighting and bombing our people in Aleppo and the civilians or the army, we have to

continue our mission to get the city back to its people.

PLEITGEN: And what that means is plain for everyone in Aleppo to see and to hear.


AMANPOUR: And Fred's joining us right now live from Aleppo. Fred, you know, they said to you that this was some sort of chemical weapons, a depot

they found there. What do you think having looked at it?

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean it certainly appears as though those chemicals were certainly used in conjunction with some sort of bombs that they were trying

to make there in those places.

[14:05:00] There was another warehouse that we went to which is right next door which seemed to have some form of detonators and there was also a

facility that appeared to have been used to make those homemade mortars that you saw in the report there. But these are of course not chemical

weapons, these are chemicals that might be used to lace some of these weapons that they made. And also it seemed as though some of the chemicals

that were found there might have actually been made just to manufacture explosives themselves.

But of course the whole notion of chemical weapons being used is something both sides have been launching at each other especially since we had that

incident in 2013, of course, that you very well remember where you had that massive chemical weapons used in Damascus that killed so many people. Ever

since then it really has been a lightning rod topic here in the war in Syria.

AMANPOUR: Indeed. And what is the very latest about how much territory the Syrian forces have retaken in the besieged rebel-held area?

PLEITGEN: You know, very important because only a couple minutes before we went live to air tonight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights came out

and said that they believe that the Syrian government has now recaptured 75 percent of the rebel-held east of Aleppo. They believe in total of Aleppo,

the Syrian government now controls anywhere from 80 percent to 82 percent of the city.

And, you know, just being here, we can really feel that sense of urgency that the Syrian government seems to have with the massive firepower that

it's bringing to bear. I was woken up at 2:00 a.m. last night because of massive explosions that went off near where we were staying. And when we

looked out the window, we could see almost, almost it was like a scene from "Star Wars" with tracer ammunitions being fired, bombs being dropped. You

can really feel that the Syrian government is trying to force a decision here in Aleppo and that of course is something that really doesn't bode

well for any sort of diplomatic efforts.

AMANPOUR: Well, I was just going to ask you, I mean, you know, there seems to be no way the Russians and Syrians are going to up now as we saw in the

security council, not for humanitarian aid or anything, right?

PLEITGEN: Yeah. I mean certainly the chances for that seem extremely slim and when you speak to Syrian soldiers on the battlefield, when you also

speak to Russians off the record on the battlefield, they will tell you that they believe they can take the city fairly soon. Now the timelines

that they give you will range anywhere from thinking they could do it by Christmas to saying it could take another two to three months. But there's

certainly is a lot of confidence right now on the side of the Syrian government, on the side of the Syrian military that they can deal a

decisive blow to the opposition here and at the same time they of course know the people who are stranded in the rebel areas, many of them are

losing confidence as well and many of them want to come out at this point in time. So right now, diplomacy really is something that virtually no one

believes has any chance of success here in Aleppo.

AMANPOUR: Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for that update from Aleppo.

And now, we're going to go to someone braving the bombardment in the besieged east as the regime keeps moving the frontline. The charity, Syria

Relief, which has just launched an appeal to help the people of Aleppo, connected us with Mohammed Edel, an English teacher hunkering down there

and they've sent us exclusive images of life in Aleppo which the charity filmed earlier today.


AMANPOUR: Mohammed Edel, welcome, welcome to our program. How close is the frontline coming to you now? Do you -- are you afraid?

EDEL: I'm really afraid that the fighting and the frontlines to be -- into my neighborhood especially that my wife is pregnant. And so, I don't know

what's going to happen. Yeah, of course. She's .

AMANPOUR: she's pregnant?

EDEL: . in her eighth month.

AMANPOUR: Where will you take your wife to have the baby when it's time?

EDEL: Maybe to some clinics or to somebody who is to -- somebody who can help her to deliver or to give birth to our new baby. It's our first day

because I have -- the first day that I will have.

And something I'd like to tell you, today my house has been targeted. We woke up. You know that my wife is pregnant and pregnancy is really super

difficult for a woman especially when she is now under siege. We wake up, she was very scared. She was very afraid that she might be killed because

of the shelling that has targeted our building that we are living in. The glass was overwhelmed the whole house. Even my sister's house in

(inaudible) has been targeted. Fortunately she is safe and sound with her husband and her three months daughter and I would like to send a message to

the whole world is to save our poor souls and to help us to solve this problem and to help us to improve the situation that we are living now.

Just save our souls.

[14:10:07] AMANPOUR: Yes, save your souls. That's a very, very heartfelt message and we'll get it out there for your tonight.

EDEL: Especially in Aleppo, we have no -- we don't have less than a 25 quarter of a million people are living here. Most of them are civilians,

you know. The income of the family is not more than -- not more than $50 a month and a kilogram of meat is going to cost about $45. So everything

that was available is going to be very expensive, very difficult to access. So this is my message to the whole world, I'd like to look at the bright

side of the world and ask them to save our souls and to stop this massacre.

AMAPOUR: Let me ask you something, if you could, would you run away now? Would you try to escape? Where would you go? Are you just sitting and


EDEL: It's my homeland. It's my homeland. I refuse to be kicked out of my homeland. It's my homeland that I should be left with.

AMANPOUR: Sp what happens if the regime forces take your neighborhood? They keep pushing and pushing and pushing and they're taking many

neighborhoods, Mohammed, in your -- in the eastern Aleppo. What will happen to you if that -- if they take your neighborhood back?

EDEL: I am going to be killed. That's what is going to happen. I'm going to be killed. And not only me but also a lot of the civilians are going to

be killed, too.

AMANPOUR: I mean you say you're going to be killed and you don't want to leave with your wife, get out or go across to the government-held area?

EDEL: We can't go there. We can't leave our land and we can't go to their areas especially that it's our land. We were born in these lands. We were

born on this land. It's our land that we refuse to be kicked out of. It's our homeland.

AMANPOUR: We're looking at some video that has been shot for us in eastern Aleppo today and it looks very bleak. There doesn't look like much out

there in terms of food, in terms of any kinds of provisions, and what about the water? Is the water healthy at least? Is it clean?

EDEL: No, unfortunately, it's not clean. People here have been on the water of wells which is usually full of bacteria. They depend on this

water. They are in need to drink water but they don't have an alternative situation that is why they depend on this undrinkable water and that's only

for use, not for drinking. But they are drinking it unfortunately. It's full of bacteria. It can cause so many diseases.

AMANPOUR: And so they're getting sick off that.

EDEL: But they don't have any other solution.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much for joining us, Mohammed.


AMANPOUR: It's really a dire situation in eastern Aleppo there.

And when we come back, an eloquent call for compassion for people fleeing war zones like Syria. The legendary actress, Vanessa Redgrave directs her

first film "Sea Sorrow" about the plight and courage of refugees. She joins me next.


[14:15:00] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. The battle to retake Mosul from ISIS in Iraq has slowed down as combat reaches the built-up

areas. Like in Syria, it is the civilians who have the most to lose.

In a moment, my interview with the legendary actress, Vanessa Redgrave, on the plight of refugees. But, first, look at how dangerous it is to get

help to the displaced as witnessed and filmed by the international Red Cross trying to reach them in Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A mercy mission between two frontlines. These trucks are bringing lifesaving food and supplies to hundreds of people who found

themselves trapped in the desert between Kurdish fighters and ISIS.

ABU TIBA, VILLAGER (through translator): The situation is really bad. We're in the open air in it the cold, and there are families with children.

There are cases of kids dying from the cold, one-year-olds and younger, also miscarriages. It's tragic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abu Tiba is one of 1800 people from the village of Kirfouk, north of Mosul. As fighting intensified, they were told to leave

for their own safety. But those stuck here are cattle and sheep herders and their livestock is their livelihood. So instead of going to camps,

they've chosen to sit in no-man's land along with their animals.

Um Ali waits in the desert with her son who's eating a banana that just arrived on an aid convoy.

"We sleep on the sand at night," she says. "My son got a fever from the cold. How can you expect us to rest?" She says a few days ago, mortar

fire killed a woman and her husband, their son was taken to hospital.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says that over half a dozen people have died here from shelling and from exposure to the cold. Still,

they've been running high-risk convoys into the area to resupply these families while they wait out the fighting.

AMRO IBRAHIM, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS, IRAQ: They lack the essential needs for survival, water, food and tents. So for the

moment, we distributed the shares, 200 or 300 families in order to help them survive this difficult time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For those on the outside looking in, the decision to stay in this no man's land seems senseless. But for Abu Tiba, Um Ali and

all the others, there is simply no other choice.


AMANPOUR: Now for years, we've watched those fleeing Iraq and Syria embark on terrifying, often deadly journeys. More than 10,000 had drowned

crossing the Mediterranean and hundreds of thousands end up in appalling conditions in refugee camps across Europe. The Oscar-winning actress and

activist, Vanessa Redgrave, was so shaken by all of this she decided to try to make governments carry out their duty of care to refugees with her new

film, "Sea Sorrow." She travels to camps around the region, sometimes with fellow actors and Lord Alfred Dubs, the British peer who campaign this year

for children with families here in Britain to be allowed in.

Vanessa Redgrave joined me just ahead of the film's premiere later this evening.


AMANPOUR: Vanessa Redgrave, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: You have done this, your first directorial effort on the refugees. We've got some lovely video from your documentary. What

inspired you to do this?

REDGRAVE: The number of refugees that were drowning and dying trying to reach safety and protection as is their right.

AMANPOUR: Specifically, I want to ask you about Calais because you did go over there. That's part of what you feature in your film, including trips

to Lebanon and Greece.


AMANPOUR: Exactly.


AMANPOUR: Italy, indeed, which is where they were all coming on the boats. Lord Dubs who, himself, had been rescued .

REDGRAVE: I've been with Lord Dubs.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And he was rescued on the Kindertransport from the Nazi horrors, and he really did make a very credible case to bring children over

here, children who had been identified as having families and totally able to resettle here at practically no cost to the government, and it hasn't


REDGRAVE: You're right.

AMANPOUR: What is your feeling about that and what would you say to the Prime Minister or to the home secretary, both women, where --

REDGRAVE: So if they won't listen to Lord Dubs, they won't listen to me, Christiane, but that doesn't mean we can't do anything. We can go to

court. We can back the NGOs, the small ones, to taking the government court on these very issues. That we can do. And it's shameful that we

should have to.

[14:15:57] It's shameful our government has kept children, unaccompanied children under the age of 18, seven, six, nine months living in the most

dreadful conditions in Calais when they have the right legally. They've got absolute legal right to come and join family members here in the U.K.

AMANPOUR: What do you say about, I guess, compassion fatigue? Do you think that your film will impact those who see them? Do you have hope that

ordinary people actually care at this terribly difficult time?

REDGRAVE: Ordinary people are wonderful, Christiane. Never in my entire life have I come across anything but generosity and goodwill whether -- on

whatever it is for people who haven't got justice, who haven't got anything, seek for justice or seek for protection and safety for their

children as in the case of the refugees. People are wonderful. It's government. I don't know if it's compassion fatigue. I don't know if they

had compassion. I wonder. I can't believe almost that they've ever had compassion for anything.

AMANPOUR: You say this is not a political film, that it's a humanitarian cry for help.

REDGRAVE: It's about law. It's about upholding the law and the big treasure that we have and still have must defend with everything we've got

came after the defeat of fascism in '45, '46 in the case of Japan and others which were the declaration of human rights and then came the refugee

convention, '51 and came the European Human Rights Convention.

AMANPOUR: You lobbied for a long time for the Palestinians to have their homeland.


AMANPOUR: And in fact, when you won your Oscar for Julia in 1978, you made a speech at the Oscars which some people called it the most notorious

acceptance speech ever. Apparently, there were sharpshooters on the roof, do you remember that, protecting you?

REDGRAVE: Yes, I remember.

AMANPOUR: Tell me he about that.

REDGRAVE: All the threats didn't make any difference to the Academy members. They protected the right of people to have their own ideas,

what's called freedom of speech, and that's strong and it's always been strong in Hollywood.

AMANPOUR: But what you were lobbying for then became enshrined eventually in kind of an international law, the Americans agreed with it. The

Israelis agreed with it. The idea of peace for the two-state solution.


AMANPOUR: So I guess I'm kind of asking you, it's so difficult the lobbying, whether it's for refugees today, whether it's for peace in the

Middle East and yet it sort of tends then to become conventional wisdom. What are your thoughts on that?

REDGRAVE: the lives lost, the health lost, schooling los, the values los, the youth lost. It's very unacceptable, isn't it? If you're talking about

protection and defending human values, I emphasize laws. I don't agree with presidents who actually talk about our values because we can all shift

values around the place. But law, I'm supposed to be a law-abiding citizen. I think governments are supposed to be law-abiding governments

and not pass laws which bring democracy to an end. And I'm frightened for our democracies. Very frightened. You have to have patience and you have

to have impatience, Christiane. I'm sure you've learned that. I went to Sarajevo a lot during the siege. I know you did have some friends

murdered. Bad stuff, bad stuff. But somehow you have to keep humanity and laws were made to help us keep humanity in ourselves as well as protecting


AMANPOUR: Vanessa Redgrave, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

REDGRAVE: Oh, thank you very much. All the very best.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Thanks for coming in.


And after a break, a different kind of artistry. Imagine standing up the Nobel Prize. Bob Dylan tells the Swedish academy someone is turning up to

celebrate his prize for literature but it ain't me, babe. Imagine who after this.


[14:21:59] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, after refusing to take their call for weeks, the Nobel Committee had given up on reaching Bob Dylan to

whom they had awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The award ceremony takes place this Saturday in Stockholm and cutting it a little too close

Bob Dylan is now acknowledging and accepting what is probably the world's highest literary honor. But imagine a world where the Nobel Committee

isn't quite sure what isn't quite getting what they bargained for because Dylan is sending his literature only citing prior commitments this

Saturday. So fellow singer/songwriter and friend, Patti Smith, is turning up to perform his ballad, "A Hard Rain's Going to Fall".

So to sum up, the famous recluse will accept his Nobel Prize for literature, only he won't.

That's it for our program tonight. And, remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online anytime at and follow me on Facebook

and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.